More reasons to teach about computers…

Today is Boxing Day.  It’s a day notorious for getting the best deals for those things that you didn’t get for Christmas.  Or, a chance to take back what you got and get what you really wanted.

It’s a great day for obtaining electronics – provided you know what you’re doing.  I had an interesting discussion with a non-technology vendor today – he had been in a particular store which will go nameless – about the “deals” that were available.  As we talked, we agreed on a number of things.  Much of it boils down to being an educated consumer / computer user and we agreed that the types of skills that one needs could be easily taught in a computer literacy course.

Sure, the sticker price was cut on a number of products but it was interesting to see how the pressure was turned up to try and make up the difference in money paid.  I wish that I had taken more complete notes but these conversations were from memory.

  1. “You don’t want this computer – it’s underpowered for an obvious power user like you.  You need this model instead.”
  2. “There’s a real likelihood that your existing printer and wireless access point will not be compatible with this new computer and its better specifications.  Let’s see about selling you additional technology that will be compatible.”
  3. “For a nominal fee, we’ll deliver the computer to your house and set it up for you.”
  4. “For additional fees, we’ll install your software for you.”
  5. “You need to buy a good anti-virus so that your credit cards are safe.  We’ll be happy to sell you this product.”
  6. “Extended warranty” – I see red on this one.  A computer that dies after three years may be doing you a favour.

I’m sure that there were other things that I missed.

I’ve long been a proponent that we need to have compulsory courses in computer literacy.  Students need to be equipped to use technology properly.  That would include certainly software tools.  I think that it’s important also that we teach everyone at least an introductory level of computer programming.  I’m also convinced now that we need to teach how to buy a computer, how to determine what specifications are important, what add-ons are really necessary and which aren’t, how to access Open Source software for particular purposes, when it’s necessary to purchase commercial titles, and even something as simple as how to install and tweak software.

These are great techniques for the original purchase instead of having someone setting up a computer and configuring it their own way and, more importantly, will let them understand just how technology works and is configured in order to trouble shoot problems at a later date.



  1. Doug
    I agree about people needing to have some kind of introductory programming. I know for me that was an undergrad course called Computers in Psychology at York U which was using Waterloo Basic (mid 80’s).

    I can’t remember much about the other topics in the course but the memory of creating something in basic has stuck with me all these years. In my mind it’s another example to support the evidence that constructing things makes us learn more deeply, but also helps me recognize the difference between using computers in trivials ways – or not.



  2. Excellent point, Brenda. There is something about technology that can just lure you into being a simple consumer of things. What is really needed is a focus on truly understanding the power of what you have at your fingertips. How many classrooms just do the simple things? How many really push for deeper understanding? I think that if you buy into any of the answers above, you need to know more.


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